Nancy Gideon | What Makes a Good Read?
May 30, 2012
I've always been a rabid reader. One of my fondest memories is the anticipation
of every other Tuesday when our city's Bookmobile would park up the street so I
could pick out all the books I could carry. What did I read? Everything.
Usually things not age appropriate. I devoured anything with words: The good,
the bad, and the sometimes really bad. When I opened to page one, I felt
compelled to read all the way through to the end, even if it was a struggle. It
was a book, after all, the story had to be in there someplace, and it was up to
me to find it.
It wasn't until I started to BUY books, that I became a more discerning reader.
I remember picking up a highly hyped historical (back when they were 600 pages!)
and slogging through it . . . waiting for it to get good. Just one more
chapter. Maybe the next one. I read the last page and set it down in amazement.
It never got any better. I felt cheated, not just out of my money, but more
importantly, out of my time. I'd put real effort into that book with no pay
off. That was my introduction to DNF. Did not finish.
I'm OCD. When I begin a task, it takes a natural disaster to interrupt me. So,
the first time DNF struck, it made me hugely uncomfortable. I'd gotten three
chapters in, far enough, I told myself, that if something's going to happen, it
would have happened by now. Kinda like a third date when you're still not
interested in kissing. Nothing. Nada. I hesitantly set the book aside. I kept
glancing over at it, expecting to feel guilty, but after a few days passed and I
couldn't even recall what it was about, an empowering relief set in. I didn't
HAVE to pick it up again. I could just . . . walk away. There were other books
on the shelves . . .
Then I was keyboard-deep in my own writing career, had kids, and a 9-to-5. That
reading time became more precious than a soaking in the tub event (in fact, it
was so valued, I combined the two!). I found myself unwilling to invest more
than the first few pages. Harsh, yes. Even cruel. But reading as a writer I
expected my author peer to use those first pages to grab me around the
imagination and not let me go. If I was shivering in ice cold water and
wrinkled like a prune, she'd done her job. If I could set it aside when
reaching for the towel and not care if I picked it back up again, well, maybe I
What made those books put-downable? Mind you, these were BIG books, with New
York Times list placement. But that didn't guarantee they would strike the
right chord with me. Sometimes, it was just timing. I was too distracted to
delve into an intricate mystery or my own Chapter Four was calling too loudly.
I'd close the cover and set it in my "to be revisited' pile. A month later, it
might be just the thing. Sometimes, it was a lack of immediate connection. I'd
find myself skimming, not engaged with characters or setting or plot. Just words
on paper. Sometimes, it was just too much work (GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
almost lost me because of all the foreign names, but snagged me by Chapter
three!). Reading is supposed to be escape—FUN! Not homework. Not a job.
If it's not fun . . . well, there's always Netflix.
Then there are those books you crack open and you absolutely, positively cannot
look away. Dean Koontz, J.D. Robb, Jeaniene Frost, Eileen Dreyer, Jennifer
Greene, Sandra Brown . . . cannot put it down. You find yourself thinking about
the characters during your work day and long after you read the last page. You
start looking for any other books they're written. And you're never (well,
almost never) disappointed. What makes them so infinitely readable? Boom.
They've got you with the first page. You're knee deep in the action. You're
drinking buddies with the hero or breathing hard in a dark alley surrounded by
things that could kill you back-to-back with the heroine. You've been given the
thread of something unbearably delicious: a secret, a threat, a heartbreak, or
something too impossible to be believed . . . yet you do. They've got you by the
imagination and don't let go. Page after page. Book after book. You can't wait
to find out what happens next.
My recipe for a non-put-downable book? Start in the middle of something. Create
questions that compel the discovery of answers. What the heck is going on?
Here's a tease from SEEKER
OF SHADOWS, the sixth book in my "By Moonlight" dark
paranormal series with Pockets, so recently released it still has the new book
He checked his watch, concerned though not yet worried. She could
have been late for any number of reasons.
He risked another impatient look down the sterile hallway. Meeting in such a
public place was dangerous, but neither of them could wait another three days
for her schedule to open up. Anticipation growled through him. Hell, he couldn't
wait another three minutes.
He paced the storage room, hating circumstances that forced them to steal time
together in closets, into hiding what neither of them was ashamed of. It
wouldn't always be this way, not if he could help it. She deserved better. She
was worth more than a rushed tangle of heavy breathing on a hard tiled floor.
The door slipped open and she was in his arms, her soft scent masking the
antiseptic odor of their surroundings.
At the first touch of her lips, he forgot everything beyond the sweet
satisfaction of holding her tight. For a moment, consumed by the sensual feast,
desire overcame the fear of discovery.
She trembled in his embrace, with eagerness he thought, until tasting the salt
of her tears.
"What's wrong?" he whispered, trying to draw her closer to the dim light so he
could see her face.
She ducked her head, refusing to answer as her shaking intensified. Her breath
came in quick snatches as her hands anxiously kneaded his forearms.
A cold thread of alarm began to uncoil in his gut. Then the door flew open,
flooding the small room with glaring light. His first move was to thrust her
behind him, shielding her from view. But she wouldn't release him. Her hands
clutched his arms, slowing his reactions for the second it took to lose whatever
little advantage he might have had.
Pain, sudden and swift, dropped him to his knees. Burning, then numbness raced
down his extremities until his arms and legs grew useless.
He heard her cry out in shrill distress.
"No! Don't hurt him! Please! You promised!"
The raw emotion in her tone, the scent of her fear, tore a roar of near madness
from his throat. He tried to stand, fought to get one foot under him. The effort
was excruciating, yet still he struggled.
Something struck him in the temple, sending him crashing to the floor where his
arms were secured behind him in cuffs of silver that ate like acid into his
wrists. He pulled against them. trying to get free. To get to her.
The sound of her weeping was more caustic than the silver as his ankles were
also bound, leaving him trussed and helpless.
What was happening? He couldn't let them take her!
He tried to shout her name as a muzzling mask wrapped about his face, sealing
out light, sealing in his furious snarls.
Then her hands covered his, squeezing frantically as she sobbed, "Don't fight.
Please. Just let them take you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
What was she saying? Sorry?
Then realization hit hard.
With the sudden sharp stick of a needle, anguish gave way to a slow roll into
unconsciousness. Her voice was the last thing he clung to as awareness slipped
"It has to be this way. I love you. I will always love
you. Remember that. Remember how much I love you."
If I've managed to intrigue you, I'll be giving a copy of SEEKER Of SHADOWS to one
commenter chosen at random!
What hyped book did you buy that totally failed to catch your imagination while
others loved it, and why? What books keep you riveted to every word?
Check out my exciting new book trailer for SEEKER OF SHADOWS at YouTube
Nancy Gideon is the
author of over 50 romance novels from historical and series suspense to
paranormal when not at her day job as a legal assistant. Find out more about SEEKER OF SHADOWS and the
By Moonlight series at
38 comments posted.
Re: Nancy Gideon | What Makes a Good Read?
this book sounds so good i would loveto win this thanks so
(Denise Smith 10:12am May 30)
The Hunger Games. I just can't get past the pervasive violence and cruelty. It didn't make up for excellent writing.
(Kathleen Conner 10:33am May 30)
I have been waiting for this book forever can't to
get my hands on it
(Tasha Serrano 10:41am May 30)
J.D. Robb and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series have me hooked from page 1.
Lovely Bones bored the tears out of me. The Twilight series was a snore and I finally DNF the last one. I read all of the Harry Potter books, but felt they could have been edited to about 400 pages each when they started getting ridiculously long. I know some fans loved every blessed word, but not me.
I have Shades of Grey, but I'm not actually looking forward to reading it, same with Dragon Tattoo. I'm sure I'll read them both...some day.
(Anne Muller 11:26am May 30)
Harry Potter a disappointment Hunger Games also Great giveaway
(Lynne Hankins 11:35am May 30)
Hmm... good question. I would have to go with Immortals After Dark. I read the first book and I couldn't figure out what everyone was going nuts about. Although the author going on tour with the cover model and having the cover painted on the side of their tour bus was pretty cool.
(Kristin Bingham 12:15pm May 30)
Interesting topic. I generally allow myself 100 pages in before putting the book in the DNF pile. The teaser you provided for Seeker of Shadows hooked me quickly...and makes me want to know what is going on and why she turned him in...
Thanks for offering the book as a prize!
(Jan Terry 12:26pm May 30)
added to my must read list
(Debbi Shaw 12:51pm May 30)
This sounds like a really interesting book and I look forward to reading it. I hope you have a great day.
(Chelsea Knestrick 1:43pm May 30)
I love books that keep my attention... they keep up with a nice flow, where I want to see what happens next and also makes me feel something... I have had my hands on a few books that had me questioning why I picked them up... I just could not get into them... and I have some that I keep looking at in my TBR pile and turning away from... just can not get myself to pick them up... just something keeps me away from them...
(Colleen Conklin 4:54pm May 30)
Your book caught my attention!! I can't wait to read it. As for other books that "always please", I have to say Nora Roberts.
(Robin McKay 5:20pm May 30)
I adore Chick Lit - each and every one of them. I've never read a "Stinker."
Unfortunately, that doesn't always carry over to some of those novels on the Best
Seller lists by authors who are always there. Rather than ditz an author at this
site as I think that would be rude, suffice to say I think many of you will know
who I'm talking about.
(Connie Fischer 5:22pm May 30)
I usually will know after reading 60 pages if it's going to be a DNF book. I've had only a few that were very boring, first books by new authors (wondering how they found publishers). I love books that keep my attention so greatly, that, I hate to put them down to take a break. I can't even remember the names of these books that I'd gotten from the library. If an author has written really good books, I don't forget the titles. The books that have kept me riveted to every word are "Violets of March" and "The Bungalow" both by Sarah Jio. She has a writing gift, and I can't wait to read her new book coming out in Sept., "Blackberry Winter". I have many fav authors and I am always on the prowl for new ones to discover. I am going to have to look for your books, as I'm intrigued now. Enjoyed the excerpt for your new book, and it sounds good. I enjoyed all the information you had to share...thanks!
(Linda Luinstra 5:26pm May 30)
I think I found my newest series to devour. : )
(Leanne Jacobson 6:04pm May 30)
Hannibal Rising was horrible. I didn't like the ending at all. But everyone else loved it.
(Stacie Deramo 6:18pm May 30)
I recently got "Bear Meets Girl" and could not even finish it! I was so sad as the sample I read was awesome but I am guessing that was the best part of the book. Anyway...I flipped thru it and read the sex scenes which were OK but even they didn't entice me to finish it.
(Angie Lilly 6:48pm May 30)
I remember the bookmobile :)
(Jill Hunter 7:21pm May 30)
this sounds so good i cant wait to read.thanks jen
(Jennifer Beck 7:54pm May 30)
I think a good read is anything that makes you FEEL something... even if it's frustration! But if it makes you laugh and cry and back to laughing again, that's my favorite!
I love a book that makes me close it with a smile on my face.
(Sonja Warmath 8:07pm May 30)
I know what you mean about hoping the story will get better. Adam is the last book I put down because it did not hold my interest. You did tease me with the excerpt. Can't wait to read it. Thanks
(Pat Freely 8:24pm May 30)
There is exactly one book in all of time that I absolutely DID NOT FINISH. I hate to say it but Surrender The Dark by L.A. Banks just didn't work for me. Boy did I try but yuck. As far as books I loved, they are plentiful but the one I suggest to everyone is Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey. I had to hold on through the first 70 pages because I couldn't stand what was happening to Phedre. I am SO GLAD I stuck with it. The book is amazing and I ended up reading through the whole series almost without break because I had to know. I HAD TO!
(Jennifer Beyer 8:37pm May 30)
Sounds interesting. I tend to like historicals mixed with mystery.
(Molly Wilsbacher 8:55pm May 30)
I'm teased & intrigued!
(Diane Sallans 9:06pm May 30)
Well, I've been disappointed by quite a few books and the thing they all had in common was they went way out there and some of the events were just too far gone.
The things that make me love a book are the play on emotions and interesting characters.
(Leni Kaye 9:33pm May 30)
I would love to read (win) this book.
I really like stories with lots of adventure and action.
I dislike stories that have unbelievable situations that are
pretending to be real.
(Mary Hay 9:47pm May 30)
there have been some books that were well hyped that didn't do it for me, but I sometimes think the hype gets the expectations so high that it's hard for them to be met. and sometimes what works for me doesn't match with what works for someone else -- just different tastes. congrats on your release :)
(d Kenney 10:22pm May 30)
As a rule, I'm the sort of reader that beats to a different drum. I'll read different books depending on my mood on a given day. It might be a romance one day, then I'll switch to something more of a paranormal type of book the next, then go on to something more humerous the next, if I'm in the need of something more uplifting. Very seldom will I ask for someone's opinion. One woman I know mentioned that I would enjoy reading books by Lisa See, since she knew that I was a big Amy Tan fan, and she was right. Another woman got me started reading Janet Evanovich, and I turned out being a big fan of her books. There have never been any that have been suggested to me that were absolute duds. I can find those on my own, but I will read those through to the end. I have to find out how the story ends for my own sanity. Your excerpt left me on the edge of my seat, and has me totally captivated!! I have to find out how the story ends!! This is one book that I will need to find out the story, from start to finish!! Thank you for a great blog today!! You've added another fan!!
(Peggy Roberson 10:31pm May 30)
I just finished reading a book that had me hating to take a break from reading it and at the same time hating to have the book end. It had humor, a wonderful hero, lots of action and didn't have me feeling that the book was written just to include sex scenes. The book was When Two Hearts Meet by Janelle Mowery. I throughly enjoyed reading this book. I hope to find more such books.
(Gladys Paradowski 1:42am May 31)
You have managed to intrigue me. It takes a good story, suspense friendship and love at least to make a good story, not just meet and...
(Diane Sadler 6:55am May 31)
Very interesting blog piece. Now, I'm sure this will bring on hisses and boos, but I never finished Anne of Green Gables. My class 'had' to read it in class when I started secondary school. I was eleven, the youngest girl. Every one of us girls was reading Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Neville Shute and boarding school stories such as the Chalet School and the Abbey Girls. These were the books our parents had at home. I was also reading science fiction and anything with horses in it. Anne by comparison was childish and boring. We were familiar with the concept of poisoning someone's whiskey or insulin, and foreign travel on the Orient Express, so Anne getting tipsy on a cordial really didn't do it for us. If I had read the book at an earlier age - say seven - I might have liked it. But at seven I was reading Narnia, and anything with horses and dogs, and Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, so probably Anne would always have bored me rigid.
Another particularly bad school choice, in my opinion, was Men Withering by Francis McManus. (I live in Ireland.) This is perhaps the only other book I never finished. I was maybe fourteen. This book was the third in a trilogy and we had no idea what came before it. By this time the narrator is an old man who is blind, deaf and who babbled. Travel is by foot or by cart and the man is going somewhere and getting pushed around and hearing steps on stones. That's about it. At home I was rereading The Lord of The Rings and The Silmarillion, also Dune, Anne McCaffrey - what a contrast.
For anyone who likes a botanical mystery I can recommend The Shy Tulip Murders by Rebecca Rothenberg. I started reading this at my usual breakneck speed and halfway through I slowed down, I was enjoying it so much.
(Clare O'Beara 6:59am May 31)
I read a much hyped book a while ago. It had won awards & had rave reviews. I will NOT name it. I found it so disjointed. I wondered if any of these people had actually read it.
(Mary Preston 8:18am May 31)
If a book does not hook me from the start I do not usually finish it or I skim through it. I hate ones that are so heard to get into - like wading through treacle.
(Barbara Hanson 8:24am May 31)
Peggy, I hear you. I read EVERYTHING, too. From men's thrillers to cozy mysteries to Chick Lit and books for my Grandson. I go through phases in different genres. Keeps life intersting and keeps my creativity from going stale.
Clare, I agree about some of those school must read classics. Just ewww!
(Nancy Gideon 9:23am May 31)
I picked up Girl with the Dragon Tattoo while waiting for an oil change once, and I"m so glad I did! Normally I wouldn't have read it, because I'm a wuss and don't like thrillers, but it was excellent.
(Rebecca Whitehead-Schwarz 11:03am May 31)
I consider myself a voracious reader. A good read to me is one that holds my
attention from the first and when I finish it I feel that I am returning from
another world or a deep sleep. I begin to notice thing going on around me
(Sandra Spilecki 11:21am May 31)
this book sounds great ! I am an avid reader to me a good read is when I get immersed it in from the begging and I cant put it down until I get to the end of the story
(Danielle McDonald 11:26am May 31)
Sounds like a great read, I hope I win but if I don't I will just have to go out and buy a copy!
(Ann Thaxton 10:45am June 2)
I remember the bookmobile coming every summer to a nearby school and the books beakoning to be read. Only when mslead by the cover or the blurb, so I get upset and choose to skim the book rather than read for pleasure.
(Alyson Widen 3:06pm June 2)
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